Jacket, The
Starring:
Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kris Kristofferson
Directed By:
John Maybury
Grade
B+

Jack Starks (Brody) is dead. Or at least he was. During a stint in the military during the Persian Gulf War, he's shot in the head and thought deceased until he comes back to life after being declared dead. Problem is that the bullet wound has damaged his brain, leaving him amnesiac. After being discharged, he finds himself walking along the Vermont roads, supposedly heading home. After helping a little girl and her drunk mother restart their truck, he's picked up by a ride that lands him in a mental institute for the criminally insane. Somehow, he's being blames for the shooting death of a police officer that he has no recollection of. Once there, he's bound in a jacket and put into a morgue drawer by his doctor (Kristofferson) in a perverse form of therapy. In a Somewhere in Time-like fashion, the therapy manages to displace him in time, sending him exactly fourteen years into the future, where he meets Jackie (Knightly), the girl he helped years ago and discovers that he dies in four days.

Starks' jaunts between the future and present create a conundrum in which he affects the future by informing those in the past of his conversations with the same people years after his death. Just about every person he comes in contact with, including Jennifer Jason Leigh's doctor, who, on-the-side, is treating a friend's son. Outside of providing a more sympathetic element to the institute's staff, her character really only serves as a plot device to aid Starks into resolving one of the major end points of the story.

The Jacket tends to borrow a lot of minor elements from different films, including the aforementioned Somewhere in Time, Butterfly Effect, 12 Monkeys and Jacob's Ladder. While I would say borrowing from so many flicks would be harmful to a story, the director and writer have carefully managed to mold the elements borrowed to work for the body of the story. While there are a few loose ends here and there, the story weaves in and out, making the viewer work at the core of the concept. It's not a completely cerebral event, but it does beg more from the viewer than most of the dreck to hit the theaters in recent months.

On the whole, the cast performs excellently. As always, Brody is excellent. His range of emotions that he can manifest just on his face alone really gives depth to his character and the feigned mania that the viewers are led to believe may just be happening to him. Knightly plays the down-and-out Jackie well, even if it's a role we've seen before but to a harsher extreme. The girl who plays her as a child is far more endearing. Kris Kristofferson proves in this film, as before, that directors want him for the grizzled look he provides. Between him and Brody, the director get a couple quality close-ups that are art unto themselves.

The Jacket leaves enough up to interpretation that most viewers will come away from the film wanting to converse with their friends on some of the concepts. Some plot devices may prove to be too easy or conventional, like the constant challenge to Starks' sanity due to his location, but overall, everything works towards the greater good. For a movie that was being ridiculously billed as some kind of horror flick, The Jacket proves to be a far better thriller than most films in the past few months.

- - Vane

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